A minor theme around here recently has been bogus publications and bad conferences. Interestingly, I’ve had three invitations within the past few weeks to speak at meetings in China – once on antivirals, once on antibodies, and most recently on molecular diagnostics. Perhaps it’s my publication record in those areas that recommended me? Nope. I have no publication record in any of those fields. Maybe it’s because of this blog? That’s a lousy reason to invite someone to give a technical presentation, but hey, it’s better than no reason at all, right? Nope, not that either. The letters are make no mention of anything other than the fact that (on behalf of the organizing committee, natch) I’m invited to give a speech.
So let’s go with “no reason at all”, other than (1) I can breathe, (2) I can speak, (3) I can thus fill up a slot in the presentation schedule, and (4) I can presumably pay the conference registration fee. The invitations themselves all come from different contact people, with varying skills in English. The most recent one addresses me as “Dear Dr. Derek”, for example, and goes on through a tangle of subject-verb disagreements and dropped definite articles to invite me to “keep the moment going”. Now, I don’t object to bad grammar on the part of a non-native speaker (the letter’s English is a hell of a lot better than my Chinese), but then again, I’m not organizing a conference by sending out e-mails in the language, either. For which I’m grateful.
But all of the invites are from the same organization, BIT Life Sciences. These folks seem to have a real conference empire going over there, at least for the past two or three years. They have seven big ones scheduled for this year - perhaps I'll eventually be invited to present at all of them. (I wonder if anyone will make the whole circuit like that - do you get a special T-shirt or something?) I note that one of BIT's other sidelines is "Nobel Across China", where they invite various life-science Nobel winners to come and give presentations. I quote from BIT:
"As we all know, Nobel Prize is reputed as an international authorized prize throughout the world, which is a scientific reward for Technology Innovation & Creations. It is designed to bring creative minds as well as exploratory spirits here rightly and stimulate domestic scientists and young generations to pursue new exploration and creation in Life Sciences with surpassing spirits for the crest of Science & Technology."
Well, that's fine. I know, I know: I really shouldn't be making fun of the way that this is phrased. But it's a mystery to me why they don't run these things past a native English speaker. (I notice that James Fallows, a man with plenty of China experience, is baffled by the same thing). And for all I know, it's done some good for people in the audience to attend these presentations. My hopes for BIT's other conferences aren't as high, though, not if they're having to e-mail people like me out of the blue to fill out the program.
Has anyone out there had dealings with BIT, or attended one of their meetings? Are they mostly a chance to make some business contacts in China, or what? First hand experiences welcome. . .
And on the subject of odd Chinese conferences, I'm still looking around for a link to an article I read months ago - I believe on a link from James Fallows, although I can't track it down. A group of expatriates were recruited to attend a steel industry conference in a Chinese city, even though they knew nothing about the field. Bus transportation and free food were provided, along with fake business cards, so long as they spent the day wandering around giving the exhibition an international look. . .